Quickhit: Second Preference Groups in the NSW State election

This is mostly a message to fellow NSWians.

I’ve just been doing some research in order to decide who to vote for. I generally like to have more regard to individual politics than party politics, especially for the larger parties, but I make some exceptions.

For example, I have just discovered that the Liberal/National coalition’s Second Preference Group for the Legislative Council is the Christian Democratic Party.

The Christian Democratic Party.

Right. (Literally.) It’s one of the parties I always make an exception for: membership of the CDP sends someone barrelling down towards the end of my ballot paper.

And when it comes to the Liberal/National coalition’s decision to have the CDP as their Second Preference Group, let’s put it this way: until about 5 minutes ago, I hadn’t decided whether or not my local Liberal candidate for my Legislative Assembly district would get a preference somewhere on my ballot paper (although it was never going to be a first preference), because from what I’ve heard, the individual candidate actually seems quite decent. So I was going to do some research to check out his politics a little more closely and then make a decision about whether, and if so, where, to preference him.

That decision has now been made for me by the decision of his party to associate itself so clearly with the Christian Democratic Party.

(I think that I will be letting a Liberal party how-to-voter know this tomorrow. What makes me think that this might even have some effect on the candidate is that the candidate is gay.)

I honestly do not understand. It’s not like the CDP have reciprocated (their Second Preference Group is Family First). It’s not like there are no other groups which are not left-wing in any way and not completely on the nose and not likely to garner so much support that they will steal seats from the Liberal/National coalition.

It probably has something to do with securing Fred Nile’s support, should the CDP hold the balance of power in the Legislative Council – as is, unfortunately, entirely possible.

Anyway, it has also saved me the time of researching all of the Liberal and National candidates for the Council to decide whether I want to give any individual member a preference for that ballot.

(My only regret about not having to number all the boxes: I don’t get the satisfaction of putting someone last!)

* Thumbnail image: Vote by Theresa Thompson (Flickr).

Categories: parties and factions, Politics

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11 replies

  1. For a bit of background on how this works (I just had to look it up):
    The NSW upper house (legislative council) ballot paper does not require voters to mark every box.
    You can vote below the line by numbering at least 15 individual candidates. You can vote preferentially above the line, by specifying 1, 2, 3 etc in the above the line boxes. Unlike Federal elections, the parties cannot specify a full flow of preferences above the line for people who only mark 1. However, if a party doesn’t have 15 people or more in the group, everyone who voted for that group would have a vote ruled invalid (because the rule about needing to specify at least 15 individuals applies to above the line too). To avoid this, Second Preference Groups are specified as a sort of emergency out, to receive preference flows if a group suddenly loses a candidate (eg, to a death).
    The nomination of the CDP by Lib/Nats is thus a (horrible) gesture rather than a direction of preferences, most likely.
    Second Preference Group as cited by Jo Tamar.
    Antony Green: NSW Legislative Council and its new electoral system:

    All groups wanting a group voting square must also lodge a group second preference to another group on the ballot in case of misadventure. This means preferences could still flow automatically between groups, but it requires a group to have stood only 15 candidates and to have a candidate die or be disqualified after the ballot papers have been printed. Most groups stand more than 15 candidates and the provision has not been invoked at the two elections where the new system has been used.

    The Lib/Nats seem to be fielding precisely 15 candidates in their group (A).

  2. Interestingly, I know quite a few people who have the same “barrelling down towards the end of my ballot paper” response to Greens candidates. Democracy is beautiful isn’t it?

  3. I think people would have the same reaction to any party headed by Fred Nile, whether he emphasised the (eta: professedly) Christian aspect of it or not. The man is a bigoted menace.

  4. Mary: thanks for that, I should have given an explanation.
    To be clear, my issue was not that it is a preference deal – as Mary says, it’s not really, and to the extent that it is, if a voter wishes to give their vote to the Liberal/National coalition in the council but wants to ensure that no vote goes to the CDP, they can number a second box above the line.
    My point is more what it says about the Liberal/National coalition in that they choose to associate themselves with the CDP – and, potentially, alienate moderate voters.
    I do wonder whether, if it was less of a gesture and more of a preference direction, whether they would have made that choice.
    Sheryl: yes, democracy (and the openness required that allowed me to find the information) is a wonderful thing. My post expresses my views only; I don’t claim to speak for anyone else. (Although I still think it is a strange choice, politically speaking.)
    tigtog: yes, it’s not the christianity I object to, per se, it’s the odious (in my view) political stance (which includes but is not limited to an apparent desire to have everyone live by the same brand of christianity Nile professes).

  5. interestingly enough, Family First gives its preferences to the LNP, not the CDP. there’s all kinds of shenanigans happening! i love elections!

  6. That’s because Gordon Moyes, who heads FF in NSW, used to be in the CDP but left because he and Fred Nile hate each other. There’s Hansard gold of them having it out.
    Incidentally, it was a CDP woman on a polling booth the year before last who takes my prize for the most bigoted person I’ve ever met in my life, for sheer depth of hatred and breadth of different anxieties. I don’t say that lightly—she had views that would make a speech by bin Laden sound like the Beatitudes.

  7. The Libs preferenced the CDP on their how to vote info in the upper house in every electorate except for seven:


  8. @Sam: except that Tally Room post ignores how Second Preference Groups (ie formally) work. They are like Senate tickets, not how-to-vote preferences – the point is that they operate when a voter exhausts at 1 above the line.
    (This is to prevent the vote from becoming informal if the number of candidates in the first preference group drops below 15 (due to death or disqualification). Although according to the NSWEC info page I linked to in the post, it only kicks in if the number of candidates in the first preference group drops below 15.)
    The Second Preference Group registered with the NSW EC applies to the whole party, whatever the how-to-vote cards say.
    This means that, in fact, the Lib candidates who said “oh, just vote 1 above the line in the Upper House and your vote won’t go to the CDP” (as both Bartels and Notley-Smith did, in effect) were misleading voters.
    If they really wanted to ensure that voters’ preferences did not go to the CDP, they should have issued how-to-votes which either gave a different group for the second preference – or if that was too scary (ie bucking the party trend too much), made it clear that voters should write 2 above the line for the group of their choice.

  9. except that Tally Room post ignores how Second Preference Groups (ie formally) work

    I think the Tally Room post isn’t talking about the Second Preference Groups at all. I think it is saying that independent of the Second Preference specification, the Libs handed out How To Vote cards that asked voters to actively number CDP #2 above the line.
    So there’s two separate things wrong here:
    (a) the Second Preference Groups, which I don’t think actually had any effect, but could have if a Lib/Nat candidate had died or had been disqualified
    (b) the How To Vote instructions, which undoubtedly did contribute to the CDP’s result

  10. Jo Tamar,
    I think I see what you’re saying now: the candidates who didn’t explicitly preference the CDP still should have warned voters that there was a low chance (it’s not that common for people to die or be disqualified) that they’d be preferencing them anyway, without an explicit “2” vote.
    Sorry for the ‘splain!

  11. Yep, that’s it (and no worries, I should have made myself more clear).

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